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Prison releases former First Baptist Church of Hammond pastor

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Jack Schaap

Jack Schaap, former pastor at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, was sentenced in 2013 to 12 years in prison for his sexual relationship with a 17-year-old parish girl. Schaap pleaded guilty to his relationship with the girl and having her transported to Illinois and Michigan for sexual encounters. He was released from prison this week.

HAMMOND — A one-time senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond has been freed from prison after serving nine years for sexually abusing an underage girl.

U.S. Bureau of Prison officials granted an early release May 4 for 64-year-old Jack Schaap. That was nine months earlier than prison officials had previously listed as his exit date, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ website.

The Bureau of Prisons didn’t return calls for comment about the reason for the change.

Police officers from throughout Lake County receive Exemplary Service Awards at the District 1 Law Enforcement Council 21st annual Law Enforcement Awards ceremony at the Hard Rock Live venue in Gary.

It is unclear where Schaap will settle now.

He wrote to U.S. District Court officials last year he has no more family in Indiana and would move to Michigan where his parents were living.

Another court record stated he previously told prison officials he planned to relocate to Texas.

Schaap had been a son-in-law of Jack Hyles, the church’s most prominent leader.

Schaap was leader for 11 years to a fundamentalist church, which Outreach Magazine had once ranked as among the top 20 largest in the nation.

Church buses, a familiar sight on the roads of Northwest Indiana and Chicago's South Side and suburbs, transported thousands to the church's Sunday school.

The church opened elementary and secondary schools, and Hyles-Anderson College in Schererville during the early 1970s.

Its congregation had grown so much under Schaap, that First Baptist Church moved into a 7,500-seat auditorium.

It all came crashing down in the summer of 2012.

The church’s board of deacons fired Schaap and shared with law enforcement officials’ allegations he had been having sex with a then-17-year-old girl attending the church’s high school.

Her family had been church members since she was a child and entrusted her to Schaap for counseling her after she had been caught having sex with a teen boy.

Instead, he groomed her for a sexual relationship he consummated during trips to Chicago and Michigan.

The U.S. Attorney’s office charged Schaap in 2012 with transporting the teenager across state lines for purposes of sexual exploitation.

A month later he pleaded guilty and received a 12-year sentence in 2013 under a plea bargain in which he avoided prosecutions in several states and a much longer prison term had he gone to trial and then been convicted.

He twice tried to wriggle out of his judgement.

Schaap unsuccessfully petitioned the court from prison in 2014 that despite being a married man with children, it was he who was seduced and dominated by a teenage girl.

He again petitioned the court two years ago for compassionate release so he could care for his aging parents.

A federal judge rejected that plea last year, ruling Schaap’s crime was so “grotesque” he deserved to serve his full sentence.

The church has been looking for redemption from a history accusations of sexual abuse made against former officials.

Three decades ago, a Lake Criminal court jury convicted A.V. Ballenger, a deacon of the Hammond Baptist Church, of fondling a 7-year-old girl during her Sunday school class.

Joy Ryder, an advocate for sex abuse victims, sued the church in 2020, alleging David Hyles, a son of the church’s former leader, Jack Hyles, repeatedly raped her, at age 14, while she was attending the Hammond Baptist schools and Hyles-Anderson College during the 1970s and early 1980s.

A U.S. District Court judge in Chicago dismissed her suit last year on grounds the civil damages Ryder was seeking against the church wasn’t permitted under federal laws on which her case relied.

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